Saturday, 23rd August - Dunkerque to Dover (44 Nm)The alarm has me up at 04:00 (BST) and checking weather forecasts, still looking acceptable for setting off with a F5 WSW although meaning more motor-sailing. I notice I have a text message from Marion timed at 03:30 (BST) saying she will delay her departure by a further day to get the boat and herself better prepared after the trying trip yesterday, sensible call. Breakfast done I go on deck to prepare Hyrst for departure and notice there is no activity on Alice Pellow so walk on down to find all in silence. A good knock on the hull has a drowsy Dave appear muttering about time zones and alarm clocks whilst encouraging Cory to get moving. We are both away from the marina for 05:00 (BST) into the dark, encountering a couple of fishing boats returning into the harbour but otherwise quiet.
I manage to sail with both foresails and double reefed main for a while but the wind is heading me off course so I revert to mainsail only after less than an hour. There is a significant choppy swell running and I can see Alice Pellow showing a lot of underwater area as she works the waves. Hyrst is similarly pitching around but keeping way on under engine power.The tide is with us until 11:00 (BST) and I am off Calais Approach buoy for 09:30 (BST) and at the edge of the northbound TSS lane by 11:00 (BST). The change of heading to cross the TSS does not give sufficient wind angle to sail to so I continue motor-sailing, with the wind speed dropping away as I get closer to the English coast. Crossing the shipping lanes only throws up one incident with a northbound bulk carrier making a course change showing that it will pass astern of me then soon after changing course to pass close ahead of me, too close for comfort according to my AIS CPA and by observation and I end up stopping in the water to let him clear close ahead of me. The traffic level was low and plenty of clear space around me so curious as to why the course change and close encounter. I clear the southbound TSS at 13:00 (BST) and on reaching the Dover Harbour entrance get an immediate entry clearance, mooring up in the tidal marina at 14:30. Alice Pellow is already moored up on an adjacent pontoon having made the trip an hour faster than me. By way of compensation Dave invites me to join them for dinner. Another hose down session then a shopping and refueling visit to the BP garage provides some exercise but completes the chores.
Dover castle for a view once again. This time without the storm.
Remembered to claim my berthing discount this time, £10.00 for the night with electric.
Sunday, 24th August - Dover to Brighton (64 Nm)The passage plan for today is from Dover to Eastbourne, a distance of 45 Nm. The forecast is for fine weather and light winds (SW so on the nose), the tide is favourable from 10:00 to 16:00. I leave Dover Marina at 06:00, Alice Pellow gets away ten minutes ahead of me and clear of the harbour. I get held at the west entrance for over ten minutes before getting clearance, giving Dave a good head start on me. I round Dungeness at 10:30. On route for Eastbourne I realize that we are making good time and that the further west we go the longer the tide is in our favour, continuing on to Brighton looks a good option. The only concern is that the weather is due to deteriorate drastically by midnight and it would not be advisable to be at sea. Monitoring the weather forecasts it seems the bad weather will not arrive early so I call Dave on the radio with my suggestion, to discover that he has been considering the same option. We agree it is a sensible move and amend our plans to make for Brighton Marina, although Dave still has to stop off at Eastbourne to collect items that have already been dispatched there. With his earlier departure from Dover and passage speed he should still make Brighton ahead of me. The revised passage plan works out well and we both make Brighton Marina for early evening and, with our shoal draft, are able to enter on the low water while larger boats are having to stand off.
Another windmill, I must be in ....England. The landmark windmill on the eastern approach to Brighton.
It has been a great day to be afloat, dry and bright with calm seas and light winds (just from the wrong direction). The beautiful coastline from Dover going west to Beachy Head, the Seven Sisters and Seaford Head providing an enjoyable contrast to the North Sea coastline of France and Belgium. The only thing missing was good company to converse with and share the pleasure.
On the down side, during the late evening a large ketch enters the mooring aisle that I am on and attempts to moor on the windward side in what is now a strong cross wind. In addition the tide is setting across the pontoons in the same direction as the wind. The skipper of the ketch has not anticipated/noticed the conditions, fails to make the mooring and loses control of the boat. Mayhem breaks loose as the ketch makes contact with two boats on the leeward pontoon and starts to bear down on Hyrst. There is every danger of Hyrst being crushed but fortunately crews from adjoining boats rush to assist, fending off and creating enough space for me to motor out as the ketch gets carried into the space I had occupied. A very close call. Not a sign of any marina staff during all the mayhem yet the office overlooks the visitor berths.
Monday, 25th August - weather bound BrightonThe forecast bad weather sets in overnight with torrential rain and gale force winds. The visitor pontoons in the marina are being subjected to a strong swell being funnelled in the harbour entrance and Hyrst is rolling the rubbing strake under the pontoon edge. I go on deck and fit a fender curtain to the hull and rearrange fenders to minimise any damage but have a disturbed night in the conditions. The rain and strong winds are set in for the day, no possibility of continuing the journey home so Dave and I book the boats in for an additional night, although not an ideal place to be weatherbound especially at £24 a night for Hyrst v. the typical €12 or less I have been paying. During the day the visitor pontoons become untenable and Dave contacts the office to arrange a berth in the residents mooring area for Alice, then insists that I do the same before Hyrst is damaged and assists me in moving to the new berth. The rest of the day is spent walking in the rain (washes the salt out of the foulies) or on board trying to make use of the restricted wifi available. In recognition of Dave's chefing in Dover I provide an evening meal for the three of us aboard Hyrst along with COLD beer - the fridge on Hyrst works, not so on Alice! We make passage plans for Tuesday based on a marginally acceptable forecast, Dave bound for Emsworth with Alice and me for the Solent with Hyrst.
Tuesday, 26th August - Brighton to Lymington (60 Nm)My intention is to get to the Solent today, either Portsmouth or Cowes depending on progress. The weather forecast is not good with F5-6 SW winds and a moderate sea state but with winds lessening and backing during the day, fine then rain later. The tide should be favourable as far as the forts.
Dave and Cory set off in Alice just before 7am, I follow at 07:30 after my usual faffing around plus deciding a good breakfast and a prepared lunch were essential, it could be a long day. Once clear of the marina entrance I wonder if it is a wise decision to be out there, the conditions are on a par with the Breskens - Blankenberge trip and once again I fit all washboards and secure hatches. In these conditions it is a relief not to have crew to be responsible for and concerned about, conversly a trusted and trusting crew member would have been welcome. I contact Dave by radio and he confirms that it is heavy going on Alice but not getting any worse as he heads west. We both opted to go via the Looe Channel when making our passage plans, however, given the conditions I change my route to go via the Owers buoy and notify Dave as we have agreed to keep in radio contact if possible. I have a French yacht for company that followed me out of the marina and two other yachts (one a tri) pass in the opposite direction on my way to the Owers, no other pleasure (?) boats out there.
As hoped for, the wave interval lengthens as I move into deeper water and by the time I round the Owers buoy conditions are much improved and get progressively better as I near the forts. I pass inside of No Man's Land Fort and decide to continue on to Cowes as it will take no longer than fighting the ebb into Portsmouth and more importantly takes me towards home. I make Ryde Sands at 16:00 as the tide starts to turn on me but at least the headwind has fallen away. The adverse tide brings my SOG down to around 3 Kts but after all the motoring I have done over the past few weeks it seems quite normal to push on under power and I make Cowes entrance by 18:30. The long overdue easterly wind has just kicked in, along with the rain, giving a lift to my speed. The thought of turning in to Cowes for the night with my end of cruise destination so close doesn't add up, so I set the foresails in addition to the main and plod on for Lymington. I phone ahead to the Yacht Haven and arrange a berth for the night, munch a few more gingernuts and curse the rain as I will have to stow wet sails and dry my oversuit yet again. It seems strange but satisfying to stow the sails at the entrance to Lymington river and head in to my berth knowing that I have just experienced a very special few weeks, it is dark and raining but I am a happy chappy. To take my smile away the berth I have been allocated is on P pontoon near the fuel dock (never knew there was such a pontoon) and it proves impossible to identify in the dark, so I end up getting the duty night staff to guide me in by torch light. Never mind, Hyrst and I are home, moored up at 21:00.
No Man's Land Fort.
The landmark that tells me I am back in home waters six weeks to the day after setting off.